As a race organizer, Race Day and the weeks leading up to it tend to be.. chaotic, for lack of a stronger word. In event planning, everything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong, and that was very much my reality 1 short week ago. I started to wonder if I’d survive the Worth The Hurt Double Marathon and what mental state I was in when I decided to sign up for it in the first place.
After an exciting 2 days at the Expo and other SFM events (Ambassador Party!), I was wiped out. I curled up to get some sleep at around 4pm on Saturday, knowing I’d need to be back up at 10:30 to get to the starting line. Erin and I were sharing a room at the Hyatt to maximize sleep time but unfortunately we were both completely wired. Wide awake and needing entertainment, we turned on “The Hunger Games” to channel my inner Katniss. When my alarm went off at 10:30pm, still wide eyed but mind fresh with survival skills, I packed up my gear, tried to eat “breakfast” and bundled up in neon.
Down at the starting line, Worth The Hurt excitement was buzzing. I checked in, found my first pacer Greg, and was surprised to find a ton of friends there to see me/us off. My body felt dead and I hadn’t even run a 100-meter dash yet. We listened to some ground rules and the National Anthem and off we went.
We started running the reverse loop, headed towards ATT Ballpark. Greg was awesome about telling stories and sharing some wisdom for the long haul, but my legs were cranky. I had serious hesitations about how I was going to pull off this feat after the week I’d endured. A few miles later, I spotted my 2nd pacer Charlie who, despite his reported sleeplessness the night before, seemed ready to run. We made our way down Haight Street to the first Aid Station and then ventured into Golden Gate Park in the darkness.
Towards the end of the park, we picked up William (Pacer #3), and dropped Charlie off with his enthusiastic, cowbell ringing Mom & Sister. Seriously, how dedicated are fans who come out at 2am in the misty cold to make some noise? William and I joined a pack of runners along the Great Highway and got to talking about everyone’s charities, hometowns, etc. Even in the cold, wet, dark hours of the wee morning, everyone on the WTH crew ran along smiling and laughing and sharing stories. A few miles and a wrong turn later, we navigated our way out of the park. We’d added on somewhere between 1.5-2 extra miles and were running behind so we decided to pick it up a little.
Around 5:15, we approached the Startling Line. I could hear Bart preparing the elite runners to go off, and I had just shy of 28 miles on my Garmin. Running on pure faith and adrenaline, I scouted out my sister, swapped out clothes, and hopped to the front of Wave 3. Bart, Rob, and some SFM staff spotted me in the crowd, poked a few jokes and then released us for loop 2.
The 2nd loop was unlike any other marathon I’ve run before. My legs were dragging but somehow my mind and heart didn’t notice. I was too busy high 5-ing RUN365-ers, hugging Ambassadors, running up behind my sorority sisters and startling them that I hardly noticed the miles fly by.
That all changed when we got to my 2nd Golden Gate Park experience. Who knew it was SO BIG? I really need to talk to the people who built this park.
Nellie (running her 2nd marathon ever) kept her smile on and kept motivating me with the exciting stops to come. “A mile until we see Cooper and Pam”, “2 miles until we’re out of the park”, “5 miles until the Lululemon Cheer Station“, “I’ll play Call Me Maybe if you run up this hill”. She was the definition of a good sport.
Somehow I crawled my way into the Lulu cheer station, 52.4 already on the Garmin, and found the glamorously neon-clad Sossi and Abby. They ran me to the end of the block, full of smiles and assured me that I was practically done. A few miles later, we heard the familiar banter between announcers Bart and Rob and knew we’d survived. Nellie grabbed my hand and we ran through the finish, all smiles.
Looking back, I have no idea how we pulled it off. But I know it has something to do with the incredible, supportive company I had, the generosity of everyone who donated, the stories shared of loved ones lost to suicide, and the encouragement from this wonderful running community I’m honored to be a part of. I can’t say another road ultra is in my future, but this was probably the best day of running I’ve ever experienced. Thank you to everyone who’s supported Nellie, myself, and SF Suicide. I’m still blown away by what we, as a unified running community, are able to accomplish.